Self esteem part 7: Volunteer Work

If you are reading this today, you are a fortunate person.  You have a roof over your head.  You have electricity, and you have a computer, and you have some time.

Many of the people who are in the throes of depression or who have self esteem issues are locked in a cycle of negative thoughts that they are finding it difficult to break out of.   It’s not unusual for them to use all the effort they can muster just to push themselves out of bed and get to work, because they have to in order to survive.  While at the time, this seems like a “chore” and takes great effort when you’re down, it’s also the blessing that provides that roof, this electricity, and this computer.   For the unemployed, for the homeless, they would be very grateful for these things that are feeling like nothing to you when you’re in the throes of this painful condition.

People have asked me my whole life about how hard it must be to work with those who are suffering with various kinds of mental health issues.  I admit, when I myself have struggled emotionally, at times I also felt this way about going to work.  But once I get there, I feel differently.  I feel privileged to have the opportunity to help others in my work.  I see people who are struggling worse than I am, no matter how bad I’m feeling.  I am lucky to have that type of job that allows me to help others.  I am lucky to have a job where I see many people feel better.   But I do also see a lot of suffering, and at times wish I could do more.

There are so many ways we can contribute to the world.  No matter how little we have to offer, just our time can be of great service to others.  Volunteer work is a wonderful opportunity to see a bit of the world you wouldn’t see otherwise.   There is nothing quite as wonderful as how you feel when you contribute something to someone else.   There is no one that doesn’t have the ability to do something for someone else.   Happiness studies show us that good self esteem involves our connectedness to others, to have a feeling of worth we have to feel useful in the world.  Volunteering through community service or to a neighbor helps you feel useful and connected.  If you find yourself stuck in your bed, thinking the same negative thoughts day after day and are having trouble breaking out of that cycle, push yourself out to do one more thing.  Pick an organization or cause you care about and volunteer.

Work is work, you’re expected to go there and do your job.  Home is home; you have an expected place and role there.  Volunteering puts you in a whole new life circle.  There are new people you will meet, and new things you will see.   There are also new things you will learn.  I have loved reading on a favorite site of mine; Daily Good: News that inspires (www.dailygood.org/) .  I’ve read about Bryce, who is trying to cure his cancer by living a currency free life based on donations.  He’s received so many donations that he gives much of what he receives to others.  He lives in Canada by the way, and when I read about him, I contacted him.  I sent him some of the books I had written, and some new clothes I had never worn.  He sent me pictures of people wearing the clothes, and how delighted they were, and people who read the book and found it helped them.  I’ve read about an 84 year old woman who lives near an army base.  She goes to her nearby airport every day and welcomes back the soldiers who left and returned with a hug for years.  She was known as Fort Hood’s “hug lady” and recently died.  You can google and read about her.  What a beautiful legacy.   My husband works for bakeries.  They often give him free bread.  When he’s driving and working, he often offers those breads to homeless people he sees.  There are many many ways we can all help the world be a better place.  No one else needs to know but you to feel better about yourself.  If you have no idea how to start, then volunteer for an agency you will feel good about.  Make sure it involves doing something you will enjoy or feel good about.  It is another way to open your world and break the cycle of negative thinking that can help you feel better about yourself.

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Self esteem part 7: Volunteer Work

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